Is Religion the Cause of Most Wars?

     “Religion is the most prolific source of violence in our history”. So says atheist Sam Harris (his book “The End of Faith”, page 27).
“More people have been killed in the name of Jesus Christ than any other name in the history of the world” says author Gore Vidal.
“Religion causes wars” says atheist Richard Dawkins.

     But are these statements true? What proof do these atheists have to back up their statements? Actually, they have none. Or at least none that stand to scrutiny.
Let’s consider the following;
– it’s a fallacy to say all religions contribute equally to warfare. They just don’t. Islam
has a history of converting at the point of a sword, Christianity doesn’t.
– in the past, its pretty clear that some countries used religion to justify their own
– do the core beliefs of the religion actually advocate violence?
– just because a person is part of a religion doesn’t mean they speak for that religion
or that they are really true believers in that religion.
– secular or atheistic beliefs, like those of Stalin or Mao need to be challenged every bit as
much as religious views are.
– yes, its true that religions, including Christianity, have had wars. But this doesn’t mean
that they are the cause of a majority of all the wars.

     Phillips and Axelrod’s 3 volume “Encyclopedia of Wars” lays out the following facts:
– 1,763 wars have occurred in human history.
123 wars have been religious in nature, about 7% of all wars.
– Islam has had 66 of those 123 wars, 53% of all religious wars or 3.7% of all wars.
– All other religions have accounted for 57 wars, or 46% of all religious wars or 3.2% of all

     “The Encyclopedia of War” edited by Gordon Martel confirms this data. William Cavanaugh’s book,  “The Myth of Religious Violence” explodes this myth. Atheism, not
religion, and certainly not Christianity, is responsible for far more deaths. R.J. Rummel’s work in “Lethal Politics” and “Death by Government” says the following about the number of deaths under these atheistic leaders;
– Stalin 42,672,000
– Mao 37,828,000
– Adolf Hitler 20,946,000
– Chiang Kai-Shek 10,214,000
– Vladimir Lenin 4,017,000
– Hideki Tojo 3,990,000
– Pol Pot 2,397,000
Total = 122,064,000 in the 20th century alone. Kind of puts a dent in Sam Harris’ argument, doesn’t it?
The historical evidence is quite clear. Religion, much less Christianity, is not the number one cause of war.

     What then is the cause of wars? We could say atheism and we’d be correct. But even more than that is what Jesus said in Mark 7:21-23…”For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’. James 4:1-3 says, What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

     Sin or our fallen nature is the #1 cause of wars. This is why when our sin nature is removed in eternity, there won’t be any more killings, death or wars. Psalm 46:9 says “He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth…” Isaiah 2:4 says “…They will beat their swords into plowshares…nor will they train for war anymore.”

     Won’t that be something to look forward to? For a glimpse of what that will be like, take my class “Heaven and Hell” on his website.


Book references: the above listed books plus “Christianity on Trial” by Carroll & Shiflett, chapter 4.


For His kingdom,
Dave Maynard